A history of takeaway food - Southern fried chicken
By Kevin Moyse
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So, Southern fried chicken, what’s not to love?
The thanks for introducing fried chicken to the world should mostly go to Scotland. Of course people were frying food long before someone decided to do it with chicken. ‘Fritters’ were popular during medieval times but it was mostly fruit which was fried. The Scottish penchant for deep frying food is well known, so as opposed to the English who would – and often still do – boil or bake most of their food, fried chicken was popular in Scotland more than anywhere else. It was immigrants from Scotland who brought the practice to the United States, who over the years have appropriated it and developed it as their own.
Fried chicken (also known as Southern fried chicken due to its aforementioned popularity in the United States) consists of chicken pieces which have been coated in flour or batter and then pan-fried, deep fried, or pressure fried. The flour or batters creates that tasty, crusty exterior we all think of when we think of fried chicken. The chicken is usually broiled beforehand and then is cut at the joints, with the bones and skin intact. In fact that crispy, flavourful skin is what sets the best fried chicken apart from lesser attempts.
After the dish was introduced to the American south, its popularity exploded. It was the cooks on the plantations who began to experiment with the seasonings and spices which the Scottish recipe lacked. Despite negative associations with slavery in the 19th century, fried chicken has transcended its early history to become one the most popular foods across the USA.
Before frying, the chicken is usually cut into smaller pieces. The batter often consists of base ingredients such as eggs or milk. This is used to create that well-known crust. It is at this point that the seasoning is usually added. These can be anything including but not limited to salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, or ranch dressing. Once ready to go, the chicken is placed in a deep fryer, frying pan or pressure cooker and fried in lard or a type of oil.
Ironically, considering its origins amongst the poor plantation workers, fried chicken was known as quite an expensive dish up until the middle of the 20th century. Mass production methods saw an end to that, though, and the relative price of fried chicken has gone down a lot since then.
As with many of the foods that we have looked at previously, there are innumerable variants to the dish. Spin-off recipes exist all over the US and all over the world. We’ve all heard of Buffalo wings (named after the place rather than the animal!), chicken Maryland, and popcorn chicken; but what about Ayam Goreng, popular in Indonesia, heavier on the spices and fried in coconut oil, or Har Cheong Gai from Singapore fried with added shrimp paste.
Let’s face it, if you like chicken you’re going to like fried chicken. We like fried chicken, some would say too much. It’s one of those takeaway foods that whether you have it regularly or for a special occasion, it never fails to satisfy a craving.
We love the diversity of takeaway food out there. It’s a bonus that we work in this business and we get to indulge ourselves by talking about it, writing about it, dealing with our fantastic customers, and putting together our great takeaway menus and takeaway websites.
So, who fancies fried chicken?